The variable value of a human being's life
Children from a martial arts and fitness centre hold peace signs at a street carnival organised by the Tigray Development Association in support of the peace deal agreed between the Ethiopian federal government and Tigray forces, in Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region, in northern Ethiopia on Saturday, November 26, 2022. (Photo: AP)

The Tigray conflict taking place in Ethiopia over a two-year period has resulted in the loss of life of over 600,000 civilians.

The conflict in the Ukraine has resulted in approximately 7,000 civilian lives being lost in a similar period.

Despite the massive disparity in loss of lives, many reading this column will know very little about this African conflict, but can quote casualty figures in the European war.

This is a direct result of how the press treats the two conflicts and the imbalances that exist regarding empathy in relation to the two tragedies.

What is the reason for this imbalance? Is it racial? Possibly. It could even be an endemic acceptance that African lives will be lost through violence.

However, I believe that the real issue is how 'poor' is treated; whether it is poor country, poor people, or matters concerning the poor in general.

This Ethiopian conflict, if you include the military lives lost, is being estimated at one million.

This is hard to verify as the blockade of the region and the penchant of military leaders to manipulate reported losses make it difficult to prove.

Based on this, if the conflict goes unchecked, the loss of life could be the equivalent to the population of Jamaica in less than five years. So let's hope the ceasefire holds.

This type of ambivalence is not new. We know a lot about the Jewish Holocaust, but so little about the war in Biafra in the 60s where millions lost their lives.

We are cognisant of the 50,000 American soldiers who lost their lives in the Vietnam war, but are clueless to the fact that two million Vietnamese poor lost theirs.

This is our mindset on almost everything. It's like we are brainwashed.

Descendants of the Jewish Holocaust are paid compensation, the same for American Indians, but the British won't even discuss reparations with descendants of the victims of the African slave trade.

This dichotomy in how issues of this nature are treated are living and evident in how we view the crisis the poor face in Jamaica.

Hundreds of thousands of Jamaica's poor are living under the Government of criminals that they didn't elect. It is accepted by them and it's accepted by us.

It is so ingrained that the zones under gang rule are referred to as being part of the 'system'!

How in hell did thug rule become the 'system'?

It is because it is the poor under the 'system' and them alone.

Yes, we may pay some extortion, and now and again we are murdered, but we don't live under thug rule. By 'we', I mean the 'non-pauper'.

Look at the bloodiest year in our history, 1,690 lives lost in 2009. Mostly poor people and at least over 300 were innocent persons who did nothing to earn the end they had. How did we respond?

Did we pass legislation to ensure this would never happen again?

No, not at all. We created the Indecom Act within two years to caveat the powers of the police, and to super regulate them.

I can understand the desire to always have regulatory stop gaps to police the police, but how does this become first on the agenda less than two years after the bloodiest year in a country's history? I will tell you!

It's because it was 99 per cent poor people who were slaughtered.

Let us imagine for a moment that it was 1,600 'non-paupers' who were killed. What would our response have been?

Well, we would have created temporary detention facilities and packed it full of all possible threats, whether it was going to cost the Government the next election, whether it would earn the ire of the international community, or whether the majority of the country approved these measures or not.

Why? Because all lives matter unless you're poor.

At least 400,000 persons live in shanty housing almost 30 years after the introduction of a consumption tax.

Our prisons and lock-ups are like pig sties.

Children who are in need of protection can likely end up in the same facility as under-age criminals. Yet, it's not treated as a big deal because it's the poor who are impacted.

Well, human rights of criminals are treated as a priority, and they are poor. So why? Because that cause was championed by the 'non-pauper', because that cause has implications to the economy of the country, and because that cause is a money-making business.

If these three factors failed to exist, so would the movement.

We will soon go into another election, an election that cannot be won by the party that challenges the 'system'.

This is a fact. This is a disgrace. This is unacceptable.

A total rethinking of the inhabitants of this planet is necessary.

Lives lost in Africa are as important as lives lost in Europe.

Lives lost in Newland are as important as lives lost in Norbrook.


Jason Mckay

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